To finish this series, below are a few webstores that illustrate the principles in the previous article. Interestingly, it was difficult to find niche technology businesses that had a webstore at all and some even made it difficult to find who to contact to buy their products. One company had an entire map of the United States and allowed you to hover over your area to get contact information for your local sales representative, a great idea. Unfortunately, there were only two “local” representatives for the entire country! This told me a lot about their low sales volume and probably the level of support that would be available. On the other extreme, a few companies provided detailed product information, delivery status, and pricing without even requiring the user to create an account, a very different philosophy. Below are three of the best I found.
Omega Engineering – omega.com. Omega was one of the first instrumentation webstores and is still excellent. They typically do not sell any products for more than $5,000 so they have no need to omit large/complex systems. They extensively use “Product Finders” to help a customer narrow down dozens of similar choices to a manageable set of options.
They also have excellent product information pages with pricing, availability, and related products. The webstore has a very simple structure, just change the quantity and “Add to Cart.” Occasionally, there is a “consult sales” tag to prevent customers from ordering incorrect or conflicting configurations.
Measurement Computing – mccdaq.com. They specialize in more complex data acquisition systems and their webstore reflects that. It still has a simple “change the quantity” and “Add to Cart” methodology, but adds detailed product information such as Reviews, Q&A, Overview, Specifications, Related Products, and Included/Optional Software. If you decide to adopt a structure like this, make sure that a reasonable percentage of your products actually do have reviews, Q&A, etc.
National Instruments – ni.com. NI is the gorilla in the marketplace selling hundreds of different hardware and software products and options. It is hard to say that this a good example since each page is so crammed full of products, options, phone numbers, and prices, but there are some great features that are useful to highlight such as seeing related products as a list in the left hand column. At a glance you can see the overall product structure for a category. The screenshot below shows available sampling rates, voltages, number of channels, and electrical isolation. This is useful to understand the range of options available. Also, there is a “parts list” separate from the shopping cart. In creating a complex system, it can be easier to narrow down choices into a parts list and then add the parts for the final configuration to a shopping cart at the end.
Finally, for complex systems, NI includes a Services tab to provide links to relevant services. You can develop entire new revenue streams by providing something like NI’s “System Configuration and Deployment Services.”
These are just a few example of unique “state of the practice” solutions for niche technology businesses webstores. In today’s world, instant access to information is the norm and taking time to plan at least some simple first steps toward a webstore might payoff in the short term by decreasing transaction costs and increasing revenue. Also, you may want to simultaneously consider your internal transaction costs. A webstore could have expanded features on your intranet to help provide accurate, timely product information to support and sales departments.